Can the Chair of an Ethics Board cross a line into unethical behavior while pursuing his own brand of “ethics?” DeKalb County is about to show us how that’s possible.
Bob Lundsten, Chief of Staff to former DeKalb County Commissioner Elaine Boyer, has filed an ethics complaint against the chairman of DeKalb County’s Ethics Board and has demanded his removal from that office. Lundsten’s complaint stems from this interview given by Board Chair John Ernst to WSB-TV’s Richard Belcher.
Like Everything else about DeKalb, their Ethics Board is unique. It’s the only Ethics Board in Georgia with the power to remove elected officials from office. (Aside: How is that even Constitutional?) The Ethics Board the centerpiece on the buffet table of scandals currently being served to DeKalb County taxpayers. They may see themselves as enforcers, but they’re supposed to remain impartial while gathering the facts. Mr. Ernst stated in that interview the Bob Lundsten has to go -before, by his own admission in that interview, the investigation is complete. Thus the grounds for the following complaint from Lundsten against Ernst:
“The basis for fairness and justice in our society is a legal system that reviews and hears cases with impartiality. The same standard MUST apply to the Board of Ethics in DeKalb County.
The Chairman of the newly empowered Ethics Commission has violated the DeKalb County Code of Ethics as well as the Board’s own rules and procedures. It is clear he should be removed from that position before hearing any other cases.
If he were a judge in a criminal case, he would have no choice but to step down after granting such an interview on television.
If he were a foreman of a jury hearing a case, that interview would be grounds for an immediate mistrial as it would taint his position as well as the entire jury pool.
In the case of the Board of Ethics, Mr. Ernst serves in both positions both as Chair and voting member of the Ethics Commission.
His interview with WSB clearly crosses the line of impartiality in my case and questions his ability to Chair or participate in any ongoing or future ethics hearing.
I am therefore requesting a full investigation of Mr. Ernst; his comments and discussions with other Board members or citizens regarding in addition to the WSB interview that I have supplied and seek his removal from office.”
The full complaint, including a scorching letter from Lundsten’s attorney Kathryn Zickert, is available at this link. We welcome input from lawyers and non-lawyers in the comments section.